GTU meets with other trade unions and picks up support as strike action by teachers continue

GTU meets with other trade unions and picks up support as strike action by teachers continue

The President of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), Mark Lyte today said the Union is preparing for an “indefinite” strike action, with the backing of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and other affiliates, even as it mulls Court action in wake of the Government’s refusal to negotiate salary increases for the nation’s teachers.

Initially, the Union had indicated that the strike action would have been for two weeks, but at the end of a high-level meeting at the Critchlow Labour College today with representatives from a number of trade unions, Mr. Lyte warned that the industrial action by teachers can go well beyond two weeks. 

“Initially, we said we will be striking for 10 working days, and so, as far as we know, we are preparing to indicate that our strike will continue indefinitely, and therefore, while all of this is going on, we are still open to dialogue,” the GTU President told reporters.

Last Friday, the GTU wrote to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Shannielle Hoosein-Outar, expressing a willingness to engage in dialogue, and explaining the conditions under which teachers are prepared to resume duty. There has been no response to the union’s letter, the GTU President said.

“We believe that the correct thing to do, and the proper thing to do at this time is to engage the union, I speak for GTU now, but engage all unions, so that you can hear from the representative body, what their members are asking for, and like I did say, that the GTU recognizes that the Ministry of Education and the Government by extension would have missed some important things. Because while you moved some teachers to the top of the scale, and they get a little bit more, we have a large percentage of teachers, who remain at the base of the scale, who have not been taken into consideration,” Lyte said. 

Mr. Lyte said that instead of engaging the union, the Government, through the Ministries of Education and Local Government, has chosen to cut the salaries of striking teachers.

The GTU President said teachers are angry, but are also more resolute and resilient at this time.

He said while the union will provide the teachers with strike relief, it will also take the Government to Court over its failure to engage in collective bargaining, its decision to no longer deduct union fees from the salaries of teachers, and its decision to cut the salaries of striking teachers.

 Meanwhile, General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress, Lincoln Lewis, said the GTU has the full support of the Congress. He said the GTUC is prepared to walk the walk with the nation’s teachers.

“Coming out of this meeting, we have gotten the impression, very clear impression that we are in for a long haul. We will not allow the Government to trample on the Guyana Teachers’ Union. This issue is not about GTU, this issue is about collective bargaining, which is the heart and the core of trade unionism, not only here but throughout the world. We are not going to allow that,” Lewis said. 

According to Mr. Lewis, the unions will not allow the Government to trample the GTU.

“Each union will have to talk with their executive to really determine what they can do, and whether they can do it but I am going to tell you what, we are going to be physically [present]. We have taken a decision, that the leadership of the TUC is going to be on the picket line, each day,” he said.

Across the country today, teachers continued with their strike action, registering their disappointment in the Government’s reluctance to engage and address their concerns.

In Georgetown, hundreds of teachers and supporters picketed outside the Ministry of Finance on Main Street. 

One teacher, Jermaine Thomas, told News Source that it is time for the Government to return to the negotiating table. 

“They would have asked us to submit a proposal, we did our proposal. It is four years now, and we are still waiting. The president said to be patient, and we are still waiting. He needs to get things on the ball now, on the ball now. Once they have things in place, we will do our part, but they are not doing their part….So please, Priya, Government, take your hands, come to the table, we are at the table waiting on you. We don’t want this thing prolong over and over.  So, Priya, Government, Jagdeo, the President, use your wisdom, you said you have wisdom, teachers have wisdom, come to the negotiating table, get everything sorted out, and lets get back to work,” Thomas said. 

Oluatoyin Alleyne-Williams, who was among parents lending support to the teachers, said while her children are affected by the strike, she cannot ignore the difficulties being faced by teachers.

“Our leaders are saying that this strike is about politics but common on, do you think that these teachers would lead their jobs and leave their children to come out here rain and shine because of politics? No! It is because they are struggling, and when you struggle, many of them would not understand the struggle of not being able to provide breakfast, or not being able to find funds for your children to go to school. Many of our teachers are living in rented homes, and when the month come, they cannot find the money to pay their rents,” Alleyne-Williams reasoned. 

With the CXC and NGSA exams quickly approaching, Alleyne-Williams urged that Government to act in the best interest of both teachers and students, and to begin engaging the union to have the issues resolved.

The strike action is in its second week.

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